LA MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico - One of my favorite places on earth is the little pueblo of La Manzanilla, two hours (by car) south of Puerto Vallarta. By sailboat, it's about 24 hours if everything goes perfectly.
I never made it in 24 hours in four trips there.
But the photo with today's blog, taken two years ago on the porch outside my room at the Hotel Tonala, shows the ponytail pretty clearly that has become, apparently, my signature.
When I went to a meeting in San Francisco a month ago - a conference of CPAs, IRS staff members, and various other business types - I was the only dude sporting a ponytail.
Of course, when people found out I was a journalist, there to write stories, they all said Aha!, as if that explained why my decidedly gray locks were long enough to be tied in a band at the back of my head.
Long hair was controversial right after we got out of high school. I don't remember there being any arguments about it at SWCS. But by the time I left Jamestown and the Rust Belt behind me in 1970 to move west, I had been fired from one job for having hair that was too long and twice ended up in serious barroom shoving matches because I was a 'hippie.'
For the record, my hair in 1968-70 barely went over my ears and I don't think I even knew what a hippie really was.
I grew it much longer in 1970-72 while I was going to college, but when I was getting ready to start at my first newspaper job, I went straight to the barbershop and got a very traditional haircut - the kind you got at the Lakewood Barbershop in the 60s, where Louie Acquisto's dad was king, a guy named Frank chopped away at men's hair and there always seemed to be a third barber who spoke broken English.
That barbershop was not a place to ever tell a secret. Junior year, Greg Taft and I skipped one of those 'half-days' of school and decided to wander into the barbershop just as SWCS would have been letting out at noon. What devil possessed us to be so bold I have never figured out.
One of the barbers used the phone in the back room and called SWCS, which called my mother and Jaysus did we catch hell. Luckily, school was out in about a week and there wasn't enough time for us to be sentenced to very many late-afternoon detentions.
God! Detention. I'm not going there with this entry.
But about the hair.
In 1993, I took a summer-long cruise with my wife and two boys on our sailboat, barely touching land, mostly anchoring all around San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento River Delta. My hair grew out to a length that would have gotten me fired a second time from the Van Stee corporation and my kids - as a joke - pulled it back in a ponytail, even though it was a pretty pathetic 'tail.'
Two weeks later, still sans haircut, I sat in the front row of a speech given by the president of my university. When he saw my ponytail, he lost his place in his prepared talk and fumbled like a freshman taking Speech 101. I decided that if my having a ponytail could do that much to that old fart, well, I'd keep it for awhile and see what else happened.
A lot did, including being followed home by a Sacramento County sheriff's special unit car one night after dining at a local restaurant. I had on a white linen suit that apparently screams drug dealer, if you happen to have a ponytail, too.
I noticed that stop lights, big ugly guys with tattoos riding Harleys would give me the thumbs up and call out 'Hey man, how's it goin?'
And I discovered that my conservative students decided to judge me quite stereotypically - any professor with long hair is obviously a tree-hugging socialist, who reeks of patchouli oil, and has posters of Lenin in his office.
Their quite erroneous judgments have been far outweighed by the coeds in my classes who, in the annual vote I take each fall semester, vote overwhelmingly that I should keep my hair long.
Who can argue with the will of the people?
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